8 ways Marissa Mayer will take innovation from Google to Yahoo

July 30, 2012 in The Work

Marissa Mayer is now CEO of Yahoo, leaving her post as VP at Google. Mayer was with the search giant for 13 years and you can expect that she will make some changes to help spur innovation at Yahoo. Fast Company iterated some of her keys to innovation while at Google:

  • 1. Launch early and often

While at Google, Mayer often ran into engineers with the seedling of a great idea who then wanted to hold it back from the world until it was perfected. Mayer instead encouraged them to launch it in Google Labs to find out how the market embraced it. Innovation is not immediate perfection.

  • 2. Generate idea lists

Mayer says that there’s an internal list at Google where ideas are posted. Then anyone can vote and comment on the idea. Many great ideas come from commenting on other ideas. Aiding idea generation might have been the reason that Intel launched IQ, which is curated by Intel employees.

  • 3. Set your employees free

Google lets its engineers spend 20 percent of their time working on whatever interests them. This free time has often translated to innovation that has benefited Google and may have otherwise not been produced if Google didn’t give its employees space to dream.

  • 4. Tweak good ideas that aren’t great

At Google not all tests in Google Labs turn out in favor of the product. However, Google realizes that these ideas have a kernel of something interesting inside of them. Google will work to continue shaping the idea until that kernel is tapped.

  • 5. Focus on customer, the money will follow

Mayer says that Google is focused solely on the user, realizing that the money will follow. She says if you can produce something that people want so much that they’ll pay a subscription for it, you’re golden.

  • 6 . There’s no shading data

Google approaches design as a science rather than an art, says Mayer. This means that rather than going with gut on what design looks best, Google tests out the designs and lets data do the deciding. Mayer has been criticized for doing this and has probably upset her fair share of designers, but look at the results.

  • 7. Share information company-wide

Mayer says that Google’s intranet has a vast amount of information on who is working on what for the company. At the beginning of each week every employee writes a bulleted email about what they are doing that is then compiled on a giant indexed Web page.

  • 8. Creativity loves constraint

Sometimes putting designers inside a box and letting them figure a way out is the best way to get creative. The specifics can be found here.

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About OBI Creative

OBI Creative is an ad agency hard-wired for innovation. We know the rules of marketing inside and out because we’re always looking to rewrite them.

Creative vending machines market & sometimes sell

July 12, 2012 in The Work

At OBI Creative, with our Be Brave philosophy, we’re always on the lookout for innovative advertising. Marketing that pushes the boundaries comes from unusual places or has an unexpected impact. That’s what led us to Design Taxi and it’s coverage of a creative vending machine offering free snacks in Australia.

The catch was that the snack recipient had to perform tasks, some as quick and simple as hitting a button 50 times, some as time-consuming and exhausting as hitting a button 5,000 times. Then there were those selected by the machine to bow down to it, jump on one leg, perform the robot or otherwise dance to get their treat. From the video below you can see that the participants loved it, and enthusiastic crowds gathered ’round to watch them toil. There’s almost a carnival atmosphere that surrounds the vending machine and you can bet the word-of-mouth spread like wildfire.

Redbox vending machines revolutionized the DVD rental model. In Japan you can find just about anything in vending machines: eggs, umbrellas, neckties, tennis shoes, flowers and vegetables. We were wondering what other types of  creative vending machines were out there, and which were being used for marketing purposes.

Fantastic Delites: The vending machine that sparked our curiosity. This one makes you work for the freebie.

BOS Ice Tea: Here’s a very social vending machine that trades tweets for free BOS Ice Tea. #BOSTWEET4T

Workforce Victoria (Body O Matic): This body part vending machine probably made workers in Australia take a sobering look at workplace safety. If it had been around at the time, it also would have made it easier for Walter to get Lebowski a toe by 3 O’Clock.

The Bike Vending Machine: Although they look a bit uncomfortable these bikes can be rented from this “vending machine” and dropped off at other locations.

Salta Cerveza: Argentina home of Salta Cerveza toured its vending machines to appeal to diehard rugby fans in Salta, New Zealand. In order to get the beer out you’ve got to slam into the machine. Not only will this give you the brew you’ve paid for, it will also rate your hit. Apparently, beer sales rose by 25 percent in bars where the machine was placed.

We’re not sure what the statistics are Down Under, but falling vending machines cause a few fatalities each year here in the U.S., which has a ratio of 100 people for each vending machine. We can only imagine what the statistics are in Japan with a ratio of 23 people for each vending machine, and with them prowling the streets looking for trouble.

Coca Cola (Hug Me): Taking a completely different  (and probably safer) approach, Coca-Cola has placed its “Hug Me” vending machines in Singapore to spread happiness by exchanging hugs for free beverages.

Gun Control Alliance (South Africa) Gun Vending Machine: In order to show how easy it is to get a gun in South Africa the Gun Contraol Alliance set up these vending machines.

Rollasole Ballet Flats: Rollasole vending machines have been around U.K. nightclubs for a few years, but will soon be coming to the U.S. Rollasoles cater perfectly to women  not looking forward to the walk home in heels. The shoes roll up to fit in purses and are also recyclable.

We’ll leave you with a 7UP commercial from the 90s that shows exactly how not to use vending machines for marketing.

What creative vending machines have you seen around? Comment to let us know.

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5 tricks to corporate innovation

July 5, 2012 in The Work

Much has been said about innovation in business lately. In a way, this frequent use as a buzzword to business may be tiring the term and somewhat changing its meaning. Here at OBI Creative we pride ourselves on innovation. Whether it’s helping a business understand its customers better through our o.VoC or just in the Be Brave advertising philosophy that we bring to the office every day, innovation is integral to what we do.

An article by Doreen Lorenzo on Design Taxi points out that barriers to corporate innovation are often external and numerous: economic challenges in Europe; entire industries in flux such as print, television and investment banking; shifts in global financial power due to emerging markets in places like India and China.

Design Taxi mentions companies like Google and IBM that have succeeded because they are constantly re-inventing themselves. IBM has gone from a hardware maker to a service provider and thought leader while Google has gone from solely a search engine into many other directions including unmanned vehicles and mobile devices.

Lorenzo says there are four ways that corporations can be flexible and evolve.

1. Break away from standard business models

Highlighted here is the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which is coming up against expiring patents for drugs such as Plavix. What did the company opt to do? Break away from their previous business model. Sanofi is crowd-sourcing in an open competition for mobile-phone applications developers. They’re looking for diabetes-management tools, such as way to monitor and analyze food intake. When Sanofi finds the winners of this competition they’ll market the winners as Sanofi products.

2. Hire a different type of employee

IBM realized the importance of gaining different perspectives by hiring employees from different backgrounds. In addition to the expected, it also hired designers Charles and Ray Eames and even sculptor Isomu Noguchi.

3. Harness “big data” to better understand your customer

This is where services provided by OBI can really help a business. Our patented o.VoC can give businesses understanding of where their customers are coming from and what they want. This understanding can then translate to better service or targeted advertising all of which benefits the company in the long run.

4. Embrace social media not just for publicity

While social media has vast marketing and advertising potential for your company, there are also other often overlooked benefits to it. Two of these are inspiration, and research and development. It’s hard not to become inspired while browsing through Pinterest or even while sifting through less visually appealing blogs. We’ve written about companies that have tapped into customer feedback through social channels and those such as Starbucks and Intel that are outright crowd-sourcing to give their customers more of what they want.

Of course, if you’re still left baffled by where to start with corporate innovation you could consult with OBI. We’ve brought our innovative ideas to a number of companies worldwide.

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How a game and crowd-sourcing led to medical innovation

July 3, 2012 in The Work

In 2010 players of an online computer game called Foldit figured out how to decipher a protein crucial to the replicating of the AIDS virus. This discovery in turn led to new approaches for designing drugs to combat the disease.

Let us introduce you to Zoran Popovic, a computer scientist. Now let us introduce you to cellular proteins, which turn food into energy and play a huge role in our health. These proteins fold into chains that can look a little like 3D mazes.

Now meet David Baker a biochemist who was struggling with the problem of protein folding. Figuring out how to best fold proteins into the best structure is a key to solving a number of medical problems. Unfortunately, even a small protein can fold in astronomical ways because of the numerous paths that they can take.

When Popovic and Baker met, Foldit was born. The game takes in account that proteins fold according to the laws of physics following the path of least resistance, opposite charges attract and bonds between atoms have a set angle of rotation. Foldit becomes a fun puzzle-solving challenge where players earn points and also help science.

So in short, gamers are doing work in a fun way that saves a huge amount of time and money, because even computers have a hard time doing this. Hundreds of thousands of gamers have played the game since its launch in 2008. And while they were playing they were also working for science, in a way helping create better cures for diseases.

According to an article in Businessweek Popovic is now designing a game that allows players to build tiny “cancer sniffing” machines from DNA that will eliminate cancer cells and leave healthy cells intact.

Though not associated with Foldit, Fold@Home gives those looking for a more passive way to help solve the problem of protein folding by donating their Playstation 3 console’s downtime to add computational power for the cause. As a bonus you’ll get to watch the protein being built on your screen.

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How a little design firm developed a light that lasts 50 years

June 15, 2012 in The Work

If you’re not familiar with the name James Dyson, you’re probably familiar with his invention — the Dyson vacuum. Now his son Jake may be bringing more attention to the family name with the invention of a longer lasting light. By longer lasting, we’re not talking about a few additional months. We’re talking about a light that will last half a century.

James Dyson, who says he worked through 5,127 prototypes of the Dyson vacuum before settling on his first finalized product, has spoken about his disdain for lazy engineering and his belief that it results in fake efficiency. Apparently, he instilled the same engineering ethic in his son.

Fast Company recently gave an in-depth look into the engineering behind Jake Dyson’s revolutionary LED lamp, the CSYS LED task light. Most surprising is that the desk lamp designed by Dyson works with LED light bulbs currently on the market, but utilized in a way that prolongs their life.

The discovery that Dyson made from examining current LED desk lamps was that the greatest hindrance to an LED’s lifetime was overheating. All Dyson had to do was eliminate the heating issue and he’d be on his way to a longer lasting light bulb. Through innovation, design and research Dyson was able to do something that large companies like Phillips have failed to do.  The CSYS LED lamp currently retails for $899, but future applications to other lighting systems for increased efficiency is priceless.

15-Square mile city of innovation, no residents

May 25, 2012 in Blog

The 15-square mile ghost town being built this summer alongside Hobbs, New Mexico might actually keep the city from disappearing. At the same time this new city — known by locals at CITE — will also become an open R&D lab like has never been seen before. The CITE which is officially known as the Center for Innovation Testing and Evaluation is to be modeled after a mid-sized, mid-American town that would have a population around 35,000.

CITE will be similar to Hobbs in many ways. It will have functioning roads, self-sustaining utilities, and its own communication infrastructure – even flushing toilets. It will have a downtown, a retail district, and residential neighborhoods but not a single permanent resident. CITE was actually modeled after the city of Rock Hill, North Carolina but has been mistaken for a number of other towns based on its layout including one colleague of the developers who thought it was based on Lincoln, Nebraska.

CITE is being constructed in a fashion familiar to many urban planners with a historic warehouse district, an urban center of up to six story buildings, light industrial and retails zones, residential neighborhoods, “streetcar” suburbs, and a rural area. In addition, it will include gas stations and big-box stores.

Commercializing new technology

The reason that CITE will be such a benefit to innovation? Developers routinely struggle to find testing beds to evaluate prototypes before they can be commercialized, because there are not a lot of places in the world to test real-world conditions without actual people around.

For instance, Google has been testing self-driving cars in Nevada and on California highways, but with people on-board. At CITE Google could unleash a fleet of it’s autonomous cars without any danger to other drivers. It’s also an opportunity for cities to tryout smart technologies that could be integrated into their current infrastructure. Similarly, but on a much smaller, narrower scale OBI Creative will soon help integrate technology into an existing but revamped outlet shopping center to enhance the consumer experience.

Restrictions as a barrier to innovation

Pegasus Global Holdings is responsible for the construction of CITE. Bob Brumley, a senior managing director with Pegasus told Fast Company, “If Edison was living today, everything he was doing in his lab–even what Ben Franklin was doing with electricity–would be against a variety of different city, county, or state regulations. Remember Ben Franklin had his nephew out there looking at a lightning storm. Can you imagine today someone trying to do that?”

Pegasus will mainly be a landlord to innovator’s that want to test within CITE, including startups, universities, private corporations, and public laboratories, but may also use it to test for some of its subsidiaries. CITE is in relatively close proximity to several think tanks located in New Mexico and the developers hope to attract federal contracts.

Making dumb cities smarter

Brumley says that the CITE will not be an ideal city, but will be based on the shortcomings of regular, existing cities. He said, “We bring smart technology to the dumb city, or the ‘legacy’ city, to see how its IQ can be elevated. If you think of it that way, 99.9 percent of all American cities are dumb–they’re all legacy.”

CITE is a brave undertaking that will likely benefit a number of industries as they work within the parameters of existing cities, to create smarter cities of the future.

Teaching innovation and entrepreneurship to U.S. students?

May 4, 2012 in The Work

As innovation becomes an increasingly important part of success in the real world and previously memorized data becomes available at the click of a button, some experts are favoring teaching children in school systems innovation and creative problem-solving rather than rote.

Jennifer Medberry, writing for FastCompany, raises many questions about the way that student performance is assessed. She states that testing students for benchmarks is not the problem, but rather the areas that are being tested are. Medberry was a high school math teacher for three years and has seen deficiencies in the areas covered by standardized tests.

In her commentary Medberry quotes Seth Godin, “If there’s information that can be recorded, widespread digital access now means that just about anyone can look it up. We don’t need a human being standing next to us to lecture us on how to find the square root of a number.”

Medberry champions creating graduates who are  “ready to tinker, create, and take initiative.” When that happens OBI Creative might find a much more competitive marketplace for our services. Until then we hope you’ll consider seeing the kind of innovative initiative that OBI has to offer.

Innovative Facebook initiative causes spike In organ donors

May 2, 2012 in Be Brave

In a story reported by ABC News, and many other news outlets, a partnership between Donate Life America and Facebook that started on Tuesday is already resulting in organ donation spikes in states where it has been implemented. Ten states reported seeing as many people sign up to become organ donors on Tuesday as they typically have in a month.

According to Donate Life America, more than 112,000 Americans are awaiting organs. Among these 112,000 18 die every day.

Dr. Andrew Cameron, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who helped bring the idea to Facebook, told ABC News, “If we could do twice as well as we’re doing now, if we could get another 10,000 donors a year, I think we could have that transplant waiting list down to almost nothing in three or four years. That would be a spectacular moment in medical history and in the history of public health.”

This is an innovative partnership between a big business and a non-profit organization that has the potential to change the world. OBI Creative applauds the brave thinking that is responsible for it.

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